We care about youth, know the dangers of addiction, and want to make a difference

ONFE coordinates the STEP for Youth in Schools and Community Coalition. This community collaborative of 30 committed partners works to ensure students and their families in all 4 school boards have access to direct Support, Treatment, Education, and Prevention (STEP) for youth problematic substance and technology use. 

About the Program


Recent research revealed that 85% of adults with addiction started problematic use of drugs or alcohol before the age of 18. In Ontario, 1 in 7 students in grades 9-12 report symptoms of a drug use problem.

According to the 2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, 1 in 10 students in grades 7-12 used prescription opioid pain relievers (e.g., Percocet, Percodan, Tylenol #3, Demerol, Dilaudid, OxyNEO, codeine) recreationally in the past year. The majority (55%) of these students obtained their drugs from a parent or sibling.


Through the project step school-based program, addiction counsellors are assigned to every high school in Ottawa by the service providers, Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services and Centre Le CAP. The Ottawa Catholic School Board hires their own addiction counsellors for this program. Funding for this unique program is allocated from The Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), Ottawa Public Health, United Way of Eastern Ontario, and the four Ottawa School Boards. 


Since school-based counseling was introduced in 2007, more than 12,000 local youth have accessed this service, and the results are impressive. Of the students tracked in a program evaluation group, over 70% had reduced or stopped “using,” while 97% of students in counseling completed their school year.

In addition, over 75,000 students have received education sessions, and over 11,000 parents have received support. 

“The recommendations from the counselor certainly helped me realize that I should change my current habits and do what’s best for me, rather than act on what I’m tempted to do.”

— Ottawa High School Student